Chainsaw Man Statue Rips Through the Competition

Jul 24, 2023
The Dark Trio of Jujutsu Kaisen, Chainsaw Man and Hell's Paradise are united by MAPPA, grisly gore and the complete subversion of shonen tropes.
Chainsaw Man Statue Rips Through the Competition

Shonen manga and anime have gained immense popularity, and certain franchises have played a significant role in driving the rise of anime's fame. Some of these series have even surpassed the current hype of long-established classics. A key factor contributing to their success is their noticeable departure from the typical shonen formula, embracing darker themes with increased blood, gore, violence, and cynicism compared to their predecessors.

Among these, the dark anime trio of Jujutsu Kaisen, Chainsaw Man, and Hell's Paradise: Jigokuraku stands out with their gritty aesthetics and shared brand of cynicism. These series defy conventional shonen tropes and refuse to conform to generic storytelling, which has united them in a league of their own. Together, they serve as a compelling example of the direction shonen manga and anime are likely to take in the future.

What Is The Shonen Dark Anime Trio?

In 2018, three manga titles emerged, and among them, Hell's Paradise led the dark trio. The story revolves around Gabimaru, an unkillable assassin with a mission to find an elixir granting the shogunate immortality. His journey is perilous, marked by previous expeditions that resulted in many casualties. However, the driving force behind Gabimaru's determination is the hope of reuniting with his beloved wife. Surprisingly, the shonen genre, known for lacking meaningful romantic pairings, breaks the mold here as Gabimaru's wife becomes the inspiration for his transformation from a hollow man devoid of emotion to a compassionate warrior who protects others while fighting to return home.

Following Hell's Paradise, we have Jujutsu Kaisen, another eerie shonen series featuring an unconventional color palette. The protagonist, Yuji Itadori, joins the occult club at school, unaware that they possess a dark artifact. When he becomes entangled with a demonic presence, Yuji must learn to control his own sorcery and the demon within him, all while protecting his friends and fellow jujutsu sorcerers and confronting the inevitable fate of his own death.

Lastly, there's Chainsaw Man, set in an alternate history where devils roam freely. A young boy named Denji is killed by the Yakuza while trying to pay off his father's debts. Denji's constant companion, Pochita the Chainsaw Devil, merges with him, transforming him into the body-horror hero, Chainsaw Man. As part of the Public Safety Demon Hunters organization, Denji uses his newfound abilities to combat the horrific demons threatening humanity. However, lurking behind the scenes is someone he trusts, preparing for an epic betrayal.

All three franchises debuted around the same time and have either received or are getting anime adaptations from the esteemed studio MAPPA, known for hits like Kakegurui and the final season of Attack on Titan. What truly unites these three works as a morbid trinity is their macabre and dark take on shonen tropes.

Jujutsu Kaisen, Chainsaw Man & Hell's Paradise Are the Anti-Shonen

The Dark Trio truly lives up to its name, with a presence filled with devils, demons, and copious amounts of gore. In contrast to the colorful and lighthearted nature of typical shonen stories, these manga offer a much grittier and darker experience. The level of violence displayed sets them apart from their predecessors, taking it to a new, more intense level, especially evident in works like Chainsaw Man.

The leniency towards violence in these series has allowed the mangaka to explore themes and events that would never be possible in more light-hearted manga and anime like One Piece. The stakes feel higher and more realistic, often making the dark stories feel akin to seinen manga or anime. The reliance on the power of friendship, a common shonen trope, is nowhere to be found in these works, with characters often leading bleak and challenging lives. This harks back to the manga of the 1980s and 1990s, where even shonen books held darker and grittier themes.

One notable way the Dark Trio subverts shonen archetypes is in their lack of a clear, immediate end goal. While series like One Piece and Naruto have protagonists striving to become the King of the Pirates and the Hokage, respectively, Jujutsu Kaisen and Hell's Paradise build up to endpoints in a less straightforward manner, giving a unique twist to the adventure. This approach might even eliminate the need for filler episodes that have been a longstanding concern among anime fans.

Furthermore, the Dark Trio deviates from the typical focus on structured battles and tournaments, which have been prominent in the genre since the Dragon Ball franchise. Their success could inspire more shonen manga and anime to experiment with varying tones and narratives, leading to more diverse and successful stories.

As for accessibility, Jujutsu Kaisen, including new Season 2 episodes, is currently available for streaming on Crunchyroll. Hell's Paradise is also accessible on Crunchyroll, and Chainsaw Man can be found on both Crunchyroll and Hulu. This Manga is available on Manga Monster for FREE.

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